Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

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Here is my homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi:

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. This is a particularly Catholic feast, for we celebrate our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In the First of his Letters to the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul recounts that he received from the Lord what he also handed over to us, that on the night He was arrested, Jesus took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.” By the power of God, the bread is no longer bread, but the Body of our Lord. The wine is no longer wine, but the Blood of our Lord. Catholic faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been the bedrock, the source and summit of Catholic life since the very beginning. Consider the testimony of St. Justin, describing the worship of the early Church in the middle of the second century, around AD 150. St. Justin first describes the ritual of the Eucharistic celebration, then explains the faith of the Church:

“This food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished … is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” (St. Justin Martyr, First Apology)

Jesus instituted the Eucharist in the context of the Passover meal shared with His disciples in the Upper Room on the night before His crucifixion. For centuries, the Jews had celebrated the Passover in remembrance of what God had done for them at the Exodus, freeing them from the yoke of slavery in Egypt. Now, Jesus was instructing His disciples to celebrate this meal in remembrance of Him. Imagine how this came across to the disciples when they first heard it. All of them faithful Jews, faithful every year in celebrating the Passover meal in remembrance of God’s freeing them from slavery. Now, their Master was telling them to celebrate this sacred meal in remembrance of Him. Jesus was removing from the celebration of this sacred meal the central saving act of God in the history of Israel and replacing it with Himself. Who could presume to do such a thing? Only God Himself could presume to do such a thing. Over the next three days, the disciples would learn that Jesus was all He claimed to be: Messiah, Lord, and God.

Over those next three days, Jesus would suffer His passion and His death, He would rise again, make His presence known to the disciples and to many others over the course of the next forty days, then ascend into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. This sacrifice of Christ, this one saving act of Christ, is not repeated on the altar at Mass. Rather, the one sacrifice of Christ is made present before us so that we might participate in it, to share in Holy Communion with the Lord Who unites us all in His Body.

Consider again the Passover meal. Every year, as part of the Passover ritual, the youngest child of the family asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This sparks the telling of the story of the Exodus, when God saved the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. God makes present the saving act of the Passover to those of every age that they may participate in that saving act. One of the central dictums of the Seder meal is this: “In each and every generation let each person regard him- or herself as though they had emerged from Egypt.” The past and present are fused together in this ritual meal.*

Just so, the one saving act of Christ – His passion, death, resurrection, and ascension – are made present on the altar at every Mass that we might participate in that saving act and share in Holy Communion with the Lord Who unites us all in His Body. This is what we do when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We share in the one sacrifice of Christ for the sake of our salvation, even as He nourishes us to live ever more faithfully the life of the gospel.

The Eucharist, too, manifests Jesus’ desire to remain present with us even after His ascension. Jesus instituted the Eucharist to perpetuate His presence among us. In every tabernacle in every parish in the world, Jesus is present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Here we can come to bask in His presence, to simply sit before Him in silence. Here we can come to worship and adore Him. Here we can come to give thanks and praise. Here we can come to speak to Him honestly of our struggles, our frustrations, our weaknesses, knowing that He shared every aspect of what it means to be human, except sin. What greater gift could He give us this side of the kingdom, but His own sacramental presence among us?

Here at All Saints, our new adoration chapel is open, where you can come to do a holy hour at any time, or even just spend a few minutes sitting in the presence of our Lord. The First Friday of each month, we have Eucharistic adoration. Exposition begins after the 9:00am Mass and adoration is continuous until Benediction at 8:50am Saturday morning. Finally, this Sunday begins the U. S. Bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, which aims to renew belief and devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Revival begins this weekend, the highlight of which will be the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis, the first Eucharistic Congress in the United States in fifty years.

I encourage all of us to reflect on the faith of the Church in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, to consider deeply the sacrifice of Christ in which we participate when we receive Holy Communion, and to increase our devotion to our Lord Who has made Himself present to us in this marvelous gift.

*Jewish Memory | My Jewish Learning

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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